Almost every person has some form of tooth sensitivity. So what causes sensitivity?
There are three layers to a tooth: enamel, dentin, and pulp. The enamel is the protective outer layer, the dentin is the softer in between layer, and the pulp is the innermost layer which houses the blood supply and innervation to the tooth. As enamel is worn down, we get closer to the dentin and pulp, which causes us to feel sensitivity or pain because we are closer to the nerve.
There are multiple reasons why the enamel may become compromised. The most common reason for tooth sensitivity is recession. Recession is when the gum has pulled away from the tooth and the root is exposed. Recession can be caused by lack of proper oral hygiene, grinding, and clenching.
Lack of proper oral hygiene causes calculus and plaque to collect on the teeth and at the gum line thereby causing periodontitis. Periodontitis is inflammation of the periodontium, the tissues that surround and support our teeth. This inflammation causes the pockets between our teeth and gums to become deep and the gums to be pushed back exposing tooth structure. This is why brushing and flossing are critical. Brushing helps get rid of plaque and flossing helps strengthen the gums. It’s also possible to brush too hard and consequently push the gums back via abrasion. It is ideal to use a soft bristle toothbrush or electric tooth brush to apply the right amount of pressure. Sonicare and Oral B Electric toothbrushes are approved by the ADA as safe and effective for plaque removal and prevention of gingivitis. Sensodyne toothpastes are another great option for tooth desensitization. They are less abrasive and include ingredients specifically for forming a barrier over sensitive areas and soothing the nerves inside our teeth.
Grinding and clenching cause abfractions and occlusal wear on the teeth. Abfractions are when the tooth appears to have a concave cupping where it meets the gums. Occlusal wear is when the original anatomy of the tooth is lost so that teeth become flat. Most people don’t realize they grind or clench because they often do it while they’re sleeping. Another sign of grinding or clenching is waking up with pain and experiencing even muscular discomfort around the temples. This can be addressed by wearing a night guard.
Other causes of sensitivity include soda swishing, dipping, smoking, bulimia, whitening, acid reflux, and sugary foods. These habits wear down the protective enamel. In addition to brushing with fluoridated toothpaste, mouthwash such as purple Listerine or ACT can supplement the fluoride content to help prevent further wear by strengthening our enamel.
Routinely going to the dentist every 6 months helps both the dentist and patient monitor for signs and symptoms and decide if further treatment is needed to address tooth sensitivity. Call our office today at 281.970.400 to schedule your cleaning and/or if you are experiencing tooth sensitivity that causes discomfort.
Active Life Dentistry